Celebrating Mother's Day While I Grieve My Son

Mother’s Day has always been a favorite holiday of mine. I loved seeing my mom and grandmother’s faces light up when I gave them the special gifts I made for them as a child, and later picked out for them as an adult. There was something magical about making the maternal figures in my life feel special as I expressed my gratitude for all they did for me.

But 16 years ago that holiday was darkened when my maternal grandmother died on Mother’s Day; a bitter irony for my own mother and a deep loss that profoundly shook us to the core. My grandmother had been our anchor in this world and we didn’t know what we would do without her. Over time, we were able to heal and reminiscence on the many wonderful years we shared with her, rather than dwell on the loss.

The sadness of the day was further removed 11 years ago, when I was blessed with my first daughter. I loved being a mother and making memories together with my own mom. It renewed my love for the holiday, and I fondly remember how special it was the first year after having a child. Two years later, I celebrated with a second daughter, and  five years later, I had my first and only son. I had what was for me the “picture perfect” family and looked forward to sharing Mother’s Day with my completed family of five. But my hopeful plans were destroyed when my son passed away from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) one month before Mother’s Day. I was devastated. I was broken by the fact I never got to spend a single Mother’s Day with him. I feared every single one afterward would remind me of my tremendous loss. I never wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day again.

But life doesn’t work that way.

My daughters still wanted to make me cards and gifts and I didn’t want to hurt them by showing the pain the day brought me. And the most surprising thing happened through my allowing them to love on me, I slowly began to appreciate the holiday again. This year, with my two older girls and rainbow daughter, I am finally looking forward to it once more. I will always be a paradoxical mother with mixed emotions, celebrating both as a mother of three daughters who are here with me, while never forgetting I am also a mother to my  little boy in heaven. I choose to live for the ones who are still here, never forgetting the ones who are forever absent. But time does bring some healing, and three years later, Mother’s Day has a deeper meaning than ever before. Not despite my losses, but because of them. I appreciate being a mother more deeply than I did before, knowing how temporary life can be. Each day with my children is a gift, and I plan to make the most of each one.

This Mother’s Day I plan to bask in the love my family graciously chooses to give me, never forgetting that although I only see three children, I will always be a mother of four.

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